Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Vladimir Hlasny

Author

Vladimir Hlasny
Economic Affairs Officer, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Vladimir Hlasny is an economic affairs officer with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut. Prior to joining ESCWA, he served for 13 years as an associate professor of Economics at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. He is dedicated to research in labour and welfare economics, particularly in relation to Asia and the Middle East region. His research has been published in academic journals including the World Bank Economic Review, Journal of Economic Surveys, and Social Science Quarterly. He holds a Ph.D in Economics from Michigan State University, and is an avid gardener and beekeeper.

Content by this Author

Fostering decent job creation and formalising informality in MENA

The crisis posed by employment informality in the Middle East and North Africa must be tackled head on in the region’s pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development. As this column explains, in the drive to formalise occupations and create an adequate number of decent jobs, there is a need for vocational upskilling and life-long learning, support for formal enterprises and promotion of a ‘social and solidarity economy’.

Wealth concentration rocketing in Arab countries after Covid-19

The concentration of the Arab region’s wealth in the hands of just a small percentage of its residents should be a wake-up call for a renewed regional and national policy dialogue on inclusive growth strategies – and for immediate policy action. This column argues for revisiting governance frameworks and macroeconomic policies to enact pro-poor fiscal policies that are supported by modest annual contributions from the wealthiest decile. This would reduce wealth concentration and support dwindling fiscal space for social protection and development expenditure in many Arab countries.

Bottom incomes and the measurement of poverty and inequality

With negative and zero incomes being widely reported in household surveys, it is essential to understanding who is reporting them in order to generate a consistent ordering among households, and measure poverty and inequality accurately. This column summaries evidence from an investigation of the prevalence and consequences of non-positive incomes using 57 harmonised surveys covering 12 Mediterranean countries over the period 1995-2016.

Informality, market fragmentation and low productivity in Egypt

Egyptian firms have operated subject to low and stagnating productivity. This column outlines the recent trends in business conditions and the drivers of the low productivity and slow growth rate – and makes some recommendations for policy.

The case for a solidarity tax to close the poverty gap in Arab countries

High rates of poverty coupled with high concentration of wealth in Arab countries indicate the need for stronger civic solidarity and the shared responsibility of the public, the private sector and the state for lifting the downtrodden out of poverty. This column makes the case for taxing top wealth to close the poverty gap and promote civic unity.

Return migration and income mobility in MENA

The emigration and return migration of working-age men in the Middle East and North Africa have significant effects on national economies. This column summarises new evidence on the contribution of moving to another country for work and later returning home to the lifetime earnings and intergenerational socio-economic mobility of workers in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.

Asset inequality in Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan and Tunisia

Measures of income or consumption alone provide an inadequate representation of living standards and economic inequality across households. This column reports evidence on the distribution of productive assets in three MENA countries plus Ethiopia – and the impact of that wealth on households’ present and future earnings.

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Egypt’s care economy needs to address deteriorating working conditions

A robust and high-quality care economy is critical for supporting women’s employment – as both an employer of women and a mechanism for redistributing unpaid care work to the market. Yet in Egypt, despite national goals of expanding care services, employment in the sector has been shrinking, while becoming increasingly privatised. As this column reports, care jobs have also experienced worsening conditions of work, including reduced formality and the emergence of a pay penalty for care workers.

Unemployment among young women in GCC countries

The average rate of unemployment among young women in the high-income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is far higher than the equivalent for young men. This column reports new evidence on the extent to which flexible labour markets, in the context of a generous social contract, can reduce female youth unemployment rates in the region.

Boosting trade through flexible rules of origin in preferential agreements

Rules of origin are critical components of preferential trade agreements designed to stop products coming in under insufficient transformation or through the partner that applies the lowest tariff. But in practice, these rules are often needlessly complex, undoing the benefits of market access associated with trade agreements. This column reports research showing that the adoption of more flexible product-specific rules of origin within preferential agreements would give a significant boost to global trade.

Challenges of GCC investment in the energy transition

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have identified the energy transition as a crucial area of growth and are investing heavily in a diverse array of projects. However, as this column explains, the region faces a number of challenges in making a success of these investments, most notably its current dependence on fossil fuels, a lack of infrastructure and technical expertise, the high upfront costs, and geopolitical tensions.

The decline of social insurance in Egypt: directions for reform

The longstanding challenge for the Egyptian economy of providing its workers with decent, formal, socially insured jobs has become even more difficult. As this column explains, informality has been rising rather than falling, with a substantial reduction in social insurance coverage for the employed since the late 1990s. Reforms are needed to reverse this decline.

Social insurance in Egypt: between costly formality and legal informality

The rates of participation of Egyptian workers in contributory social insurance has continued to decline, even during times when the country has had positive annual growth rates. This column discusses key institutional elements in the design of the current social insurance scheme that have contributed to the growing gap in coverage, particularly the scheme’s cost and eligibility requirements.

Making trade agreements more environmentally friendly in the MENA region

Trade policy can play a significant role in efforts to decarbonise the global economy. But as this column explains, there need to be more environmental provisions in trade agreements in which developing countries participate – and stronger legal enforcement of those provisions at the international level. The MENA region would benefit substantially from such changes.

Jordan: navigating through multiple crises

Jordan’s real GDP per capita is today no higher than it was 40 years ago. While external factors have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the country’s economic outcomes, weak macroeconomic management and low public spending on investment and the social sectors have also played a substantial role. This column explores what can be done to reduce high public debt, accelerate private sector development and enhance social outcomes.

Egypt and Iraq: amenities, environmental quality and taste for revolution

The Middle East and North Africa is a region marked by significant political turbulence. This column explores a novel dimension of these upheavals: the relationship between people’s satisfaction with, on one hand, the amenities to which they have access and the environmental quality they experience, and, on the other hand, their inclination towards revolutionary actions. The data come from the World Value Survey collected in 2018 in Egypt and Iraq.

Iran’s globalisation and Saudi Arabia’s defence budget

How might Saudi Arabia react to Iran's renewed participation in global trade and investment? This column explores whether the expanding economic globalisation of Iran, following the lifting of nuclear sanctions, could yield a peace dividend for Saudi Arabia, consequently dampening the Middle East arms competition. These issues have attracted increased attention in recent times, notably after a pivotal agreement between the two countries in March 2023, marking the resumption of their political ties after a seven-year conflict.